Have you ever heard of a parrot that stood one metre tall? No, must be the answer. Well, the remains of a super-sized parrot named as ‘Heracles inexpactatus’ that stood more than half the height of an average human have been discovered in New Zealand. It is said that the giant parrot existed on the Earth at least 19 million years ago. Importantly, Heracles is twice the size of the critically endangered flightless New Zealand kakapo, which was previously the largest known parrot.
Notably, the giant parrot was found in fossils which were up to 19 million years old, near St Bathans in Central Otago, New Zealand. Interestingly, the area is well known for bird fossils from the Miocene period, which lasted from around 23 million to five million years ago.
According to a report by an international team of palaeontologists published in the latest edition of Biology Letters, the bird would have stood about one metre tall and weighed up to seven kg.
“It could have flown but we’re putting our money on it being flightless,” said Paul Scofield, the senior curator of natural history at Canterbury Museum. “The thought they were from a giant parrot did not enter our minds. We thought it could be some type of eagle until we went back and looked at it again,” he added.
It is worth mentioning here that Heracles is believed to have had a massive beak that could crack open even the toughest sources of food, and scientists posit it may have been a cannibal, at times feasting on other parrots.
“New Zealand is well known for its giant birds,” says Flinders University Associate Professor Trevor Worthy. “Not only moa dominated avifaunas, but giant geese and adzebills shared the forest floor, while a giant eagle ruled the skies. But until now, no-one has ever found an extinct giant parrot – anywhere,” he added.
He further said, “It was likely a flightless forager who ate abundantly on fruit and seeds but may have preyed on small animals that it could dig out of logs, or even snack on dead or dying moa – like kea still do with sheep.”
“We have been excavating these fossil deposits for 20 years, and each year reveals new birds and other animals. While Heracles is one of the most spectacular birds we have found, no doubt there are many more unexpected species yet to be discovered in this most interesting deposit,” Trevor Worthy added.
Last year, scientists found the remains of a giant burrowing bat that lived millions of years ago in the same region.